2017 Year in Review

Just a sample of what happened in Hyattsville in 2017.

BY KRISSI HUMBARD — 2018 is upon us, which brings a time to reflect. 2017 brought a lot of change to Hyattsville — businesses opening and closing, new city councilmembers, changes to the city’s charter. Here we look at some of the top stories from the year.

January

Nine members of the city council introduced an ordinance to make Hyattsville a sanctuary city in January 2017, despite an executive order from the Trump administration aimed at enforcing immigration laws.

On Jan. 25, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that called for “direct agencies … to ensure the faithful execution of immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.” A hard push for immigration enforcement was outlined in the order, as was the threat of loss of federal funds to sanctuary cities.

The super majority of the Hyattsville City Council, however, would not let that threat stop them. “This legislation I introduced, along with my eight colleagues and a super majority of the Hyattsville City Council, will prohibit the city staff from arresting or detaining or continuing to hold or transferring information about a resident’s immigration status to the federal government,” said Paschall.

February

 A large, anti-Trump mural appeared one February day in front of the Hyattsville Busboys & Poets. Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets owner, said he didn’t know much about the mural. “The mural is the work of an arts collective,” he said, via email. “They find places wherever they can to showcase their work.”

The mural sparked conversation around town. The piece was done by a collective of DC-based graffiti writers and street artists called DC 2 Standing Rock. The mural was moved to Hyattsville from the Busboys and Poets 5th & K location in Washington, D.C.

The mural, which was supposed to remain at the corner for a few months, was removed after a few days.

March

 In 2011, Hyattsville City Police Sgt. Suzie Johnson was a finalist for the America’s Most Wanted All-Star award for her work on the city’s police force and in the community. In 2015, she was awarded the Community Service Officer of the Year award from the Police Chiefs’ Association of Prince George’s County. In March 2016, she brought her community focus to Northwestern High School as the new student resource officer (SRO).

Johnson wanted to keep kids out of the system, so she came up with the idea of a “student behavior contract.” Using internet examples, she drew up one of her own, got it approved, and has slowly started using it for some “school disruption” charges.

“Do we want our kids in the system for making mistakes … if it’s something minor that they can learn from?” Johnson asked.

ALSO IN MARCH:

April

The first Whole Foods Market in Prince George’s County opened April 12 on Baltimore Avenue in Riverdale Park. The 40,000-square-foot store is the primary anchor for Riverdale Park Station, the mixed-use development by Calvin Cafritz Enterprises that includes 160,000 feet of retail space and 37,000 square feet of office space. (Starbucks, MOD Pizza and District Taco, among others, have since opened there).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers Prince George’s County a “food desert” for its lack of access to groceries or fresh food; the store’s opening will create a food oasis. The store includes many new, locally sourced and seasonal products and favorites like hand-tossed pizza, the custom acai bowl bar or the six types of cold-pressed juice on draft. The store also features self-serve coffee and espresso, bread made daily from scratch, self-serve mochi ice cream and fish smoked in-house.

ALSO, IN APRIL:

  • Chants and cheers filled the council chambers after the Hyattsville City Council cast its final vote in favor of the “sanctuary city” ordinance on April 17. The ordinance passed 8-2 and took effect in May 2017, making Hyattsville the first city in Prince George’s County to become a sanctuary city and just the second in the state of Maryland.
  • City council election season was in full swing in April, with the election happening in early May. The HL&T hosted a debate for the candidates, and questions about campaign finance reports, accusations of questionable conduct or character, allegations of bullying, and claims of false accusations and misinformation abounded.
  • The city also celebrated its 131st anniversary in late April.

May

A record number of residents turned out to vote for the city council election. Elections Coordinator Nicola Konigkramer announced the record-breaking number: 1,575, or 15 percent of registered voters.

Three candidates were in the running for the Ward 1 seat. Residents came out in force in support of Bart Lawrence, and he was re-elected with 466 votes. The Ward 2 race was uncontested, but Councilmember Robert Croslin received 352 votes. The race for Ward 3 had three female contenders. Councilmember Patrick Paschall did not seek re-election. Carrianna Suiter, who set the record this year for campaign contributions, won with 138 votes. In Ward 4, 106 residents cast their votes for Councilmember Edouard Haba. The race in Ward 5 also had three contenders. Erica Spell won with 78 votes.

ALSO, IN MAY:

  • The Northwestern High School senior Visual and Performing Arts class of 2017 has received over $1.65 million in scholarships. Twin sisters Eleisha and Tonisha McCorkle received more than $1 million in scholarship offers from some of the top arts programs in the country. Both had accepted full scholarships to study at New York University (NYU).

June

On June 23 at 10 a.m., Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) officers responded to the 5500 block of 45th Avenue for the sound of gun shots, according to a statement released by HCPD. Upon arrival, officers found a male lying in an apartment building hallway suffering from multiple gun shots wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene. This was the first homicide of 2017 in Hyattsville.

A short time later, Riverdale Park Police officers responded to the 5700 block of 48th Avenue for a report of an unresponsive male. Upon arrival, officers found a male on the ground suffering from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was also pronounced dead. The Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) was called to investigate the incident and handle the homicide investigations. According to PGPD, the Homicide Unit was investigating the incident as a murder/suicide.

ALSO, IN JUNE: 

  • The Hyattsville Police Department started a new teen club for the summer for teens ages 13-18 who live in Hyattsville and the surrounding area or who attend Northwestern High School. The club was so popular that it continued after summer was over.
  • City of Hyattsville and Pyramid Atlantic were awarded a Community Choice Award for the renovation of the Arcade Building, as part of its 2016 Best of Maryland Awards program. The Community Choice award recognizes projects around the state that represent the very best happening at the local level of the preservation movement.

July

Dozens of elected officials, community leaders, staff and well-wishers turned out on a warm July morning for the grand opening of Art Works Now and Pizzeria Paradiso Hyattsville. The project was five years in the making and was the idea of Art Works Now founder and Mount Rainier native Barbara Johnson, along with her partner and Pizzeria Paradiso owner Ruth Gresser. They completely renovated the former Marché florist building with assistance from city, county and state grants plus community fundraising.

The City of Hyattsville declared July 15 as “Art and Pizza Day” while Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III proclaimed the day to be “Paint and Pizza Day” in the county.

ALSO IN JULY:

  • A group of local community leaders and executives from the Gilbane Development Company met in West Hyattsville on July 18 to formally kick off the construction of The Riverfront at West Hyattsville Metro — a new mixed-use condominium and townhouse development adjacent to the West Hyattsville Metro Station.
  • There are many stories about educators who change students’ lives. But sometimes, it’s a student — or their family — who changes the life of an educator. The father of a student at Chelsea School donated a kidney to Interim Co-Head and Middle Division Principal Kristal Weems-Bradner.

August

A bakery cafe is coming to the storefront immediately north of Pizza Paradiso. Delectable Cakery, now a wholesale provider of DC Sweet Potato Cake to retailers including Wegmans, Safeway, Starbucks and, soon, Walmart will be opening a flagship retail store in Hyattsville.

Co-owner April Richardson says she is planning a rooftop deck and a business that “opens early and closes late.” She says the cafe will be “adult focused;” kids will be welcome, but it will be a better place for a date than for a kid’s birthday party.

Construction is ongoing.

ALSO IN AUGUST:

  • The city’s Department of Public Works is finally getting a new home — one that will include working toilets. City staff, Department of Public Works (DPW) employees and a small number of residents attended a “symbolic” groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 9.
  • A local company that has had a big impact on the community won a big prize. Community Forklift, along with its CEO Nancy J. Meyer, have been selected as the winner of the Charitable Business category for the eBay SHINE Awards for Small Business. The announcement was made at eBay Open 2017 on July 27 in Las Vegas.
  • DeMatha football opened its season in Las Vegas against Bishop Gorman High School. The game was televised on ESPN, as part of the 2017 GEICO ESPN High School Football Kickoff. The Stags lost, 35-23.

September

The 10th Annual Downtown Hyattsville Arts & Ales Festival, organized by the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation (CDC), in partnership with the City of Hyattsville and the Brewers Association of Maryland, along with festival sponsors, was held in downtown Hyattsville on Sept. 23.

Despite high temperatures, the festival drew thousands of residents and visitors to browse art from 100 artists, enjoy Maryland craft beer in the beer garden — including beer from local breweries Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store and Streetcar 82 Brewing Company, and mead from Maryland Meadworks — listen to live music from different bands throughout the day, snack on food from the many food trucks and stands, and take part in some hands-on art activities.

ALSO IN SEPTEMBER:

  • Hyattsville hosted its first PorchFest on Sept. 16, giving the Hyattsville community the opportunity to listen to approximately 30 entertainers performing on 13 Hyattsville porches.
  • Duende District, a mobile bookstore that focuses on works by authors and illustrators of color, popped up in a vacant storefront in Queens Chapel Town Center.
  • Lloyd Lee Welch Jr., a former resident of Hyattsville and convicted sex offender, plead guilty on Sept. 12, to the 1975 murders of 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and her 10-year-old sister Katherine.
  • The SoHy Collective took on some big projects. The group’s mission is focused on developing a visual and commercial identity which promotes and supports small businesses and nonprofits in the SoHy area of Hyattsville.

October

Northwestern High School got a new synthetic turf field and new lights, thanks in part to the Washington Redskins. A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 20, held prior to Northwestern’s homecoming game against Largo, marked the beginning of a new chapter for Northwestern High School’s football team.

Former quarterback and current senior vice president of Redskins player personnel Doug Williams, former Redskins receiver Gary Clark, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, and Rogers attended the ceremony, along with alumni students, alumni cheer members and children of alumni. A group of alumni celebrating their 35th reunion were among those returning to Northwestern to cheer on the Wildcats.

ALSO IN OCTOBER: 

  • Major changes are happening to the Mall at Prince Georges. PREIT, the mall’s owners, announced it would invest $25 million into a major overhaul of the mall. There are new stores, an update to the exterior and interior, new restaurants coming to the exterior of the mall, and a rebranding to MPG.
  • The Hyattsville City Police Department added electric vehicles to its fleet, held an open house for its new headquarters, and welcomed four new officers to the department.
  • Two beloved community events were held in October: The Hyattsville Elementary School Zombie Run 5k returned for its second year to raise money for local schools; and the Hyattsville Nurturing Moms’ HY-Swap, which happens twice a year now, once again helped local families save some money and recycle their gently used infant, children’s and maternity clothes and goods.

November

Shortcake Bakery, which opened in October 2011, had a tumultuous 2017. In April, thieves broke down the back door; a week later, thieves broke in the front door. Arriving on a morning in May, Harrington discovered the oven was broken beyond repair and had to be replaced. Then came the July storm: Two days of deluge and a micro-blast, a “mini-tornado,” that folded back the roof, saturated walls and severely damaged the electrical system.

Owner Cheryl Harrington confronted the disasters: step-by-step, she faced the damage and began the repairs. And two months and one week after the storm, she triumphantly reopened the door. Shortcake Bakery held its grand reopening Nov. 18.

ALSO IN NOVEMBER:

December

The city kicked off the holiday season with its annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at Magruder Park on Dec. 1.

Student band, choir and dance groups from Felegy Elementary School performed for the crowd. City staff handed out hot chocolate while Santa strolled around, posing for pictures and talking to children. Before the switch was flipped and the tree was lit, Mayor Candace Hollingsworth dedicated the tree to Hyattsville City Police Department Sgt. Tony Knox.

ALSO IN DECEMBER:

  • City of Hyattsville staff honored the city’s volunteers at the 2017 Volunteer Recognition and Appreciation Reception. Rev. Stephen Price, the interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Hyattsville, was named Hyattsville’s Volunteer of the Year during the reception.
  • Residents decorated their homes for the annual Claus Applause holiday decorating contest. Winners were chosen Dec. 13 by a group of city staff and residents.
  • Police officers from 11 area agencies played Santa for some local children in need, taking them shopping during the annual Operation Santa with a Badge.
  • Sad news, book lovers: Robert Harper Books in nearby Riverdale Park announced it would close at the end of January.

That was quite a year! We’re looking forward to what 2018 has in store …